On 1 February 2018, I started working on a 13″ x 18″ Glorafilia Tiffany peacock needlepoint kit. While it isn’t finished (yet!), it serves as inspiration and motivation for both my hobbies and career choices.
I’ve done dozens of counted cross stitch pieces over several decades, but I’d completed just one needlepoint kit, an iris pillow, before starting this one. The pillow only called for the basic tent stitch, where the peacock required several decorative stitches.
After I completed the easy background tent stitches at the top, I let the canvas sit for months at a stretch (pun intended) because I felt overwhelmed by all the color changes, especially in the peacock’s tail. Each time I’d pick it up, I’d spend time being indecisive about which color to start with. Sometimes it would just look like too much left to do on an overly ambitious design, so I wouldn’t do anything on it.
As if the design wasn’t intricate enough, I decided to make some of the leaves look more lifelike with a vein. I don’t think a single one turned out the way I wanted on my first attempt to stitch it.
Even though the satin stitches in the tail were longer and seemingly quicker to do, the tail feathers were much more complicated than I expected. I found myself unstitching and restitching multiple times on almost every color change because the stitches didn’t lie flat or fully cover the canvas. If each stitch was meant to be the “hair” (which I’ve learned through Google is the “barb”) of a feather, I made stitching errors that made the peacock look like my schnauzer had nipped at him. I’m still not completely happy with some of my stitches, but I don’t want to make this project into life’s work!
I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment on Sunday night when I finally finished filling in the bottom of the peacock’s tail! I still need to outline parts of it and stitch most of the bottom right corner. I’m confident I’ll finish the piece (and hopefully get it to a frame shop) before its 4th anniversary rolls around next month.
I didn’t feel overwhelmed with building my Lego sets (bookshop and typewriter) because I had step-by-step instructions, though some were confusing as you have no text and must interpret diagrams. I did make a couple of mistakes with adding a brick on the wrong side or in the wrong place. Fortunately, I’m married to my own personal Lego guru. Drew was able to figure out and fix my errors, saving me from undoing and redoing everything.
With my current paint-by-number canvas of Van Gogh’s Irises, the somewhat paralyzing indecisiveness over color choice is back in full force.
In all 3 of these hobbies, instructions generally are clear, and the outcome is known before I start.
In my career choices, I have no instructions or known outcome. It’s easy to have analysis paralysis when considering conflicting choices, especially since spending time on one thing takes time needed for something else. For example:
- Should I research a public domain book for possible narration, and if so, which one?
- Should I write an article today? If I do, should it be something for my blog or the NarratorsRoadmap.com Knowledge Base?
- Should I create a video?
- I’m currently adding listings to my exclusive casting directory for NarratorsRoadmap.com 6-month and yearly members. Which company should I add next? Should I pick a production company or a publisher?
The needlepoint peacock has shown me again that if I would just do a little bit each day, the whole thing starts to come together and reveal itself over time.
I know how to prioritize my tasks and ensure that my work for others is done ahead of the deadline. I adhere to schedules for my personal and NarratorsRoadmap.com member newsletters.
However, many things on my to-do list are self-imposed and have equal priority, like the colors in a needlepoint or paint-by-numbers kit. In those cases, it doesn’t matter which one I pick.
What does matter is TAKING CONSISTENT ACTION.
By not worrying about making a mistake, any action will move me forward in some way. I learn things that don’t turn out quite the way I envisioned and find better ways to do them. The outcomes tend to be far more beneficial and beautiful than I could have imagined!
Talmadge Ragan says
What a great article , Karen! You are amazing at all you do and you continue to always inspire me! I miss our getting together. It seems at conferences we’ve always had time to chat and catch up and I’ve missed that! All best fo you and Drew and I hope to see you somewhere, sometime this year!
Karen Commins says
Thanks so much for the warm words, Talmadge!
I fondly remember our deep discussions at past APACS. Maybe we should actually plan a call one of these days!
I hope 2022 has started on a great note for you and Worth!
Amy Johnson says
This is perfect timing. With the new year, there are new goals. I want to do them all at once to a point that I can’t decide where to begin, then procrastinating until it’s the next week, etc. All the pieces will fall into place as long as I make a move forward on what I can accomplish right now. Just pick one. Thanks! Beautiful needlework, btw!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Amy! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has run into this problem! 🙂
I do think it’s a good idea to give myself general deadlines and a reward, with the reward being more important than the deadline. I’m a big fan of rewards!
For instance, I’ve been creating some new demos. I want to finish them by the end of the month. I’ll load them on my site and some casting sites and send emails to producers to alert them to the new demos.
These actions have inherent rewards in the feelings of accomplishment as I cross things off my to-do list and line up work. However, I also celebrate these steps with tangible rewards like a restaurant dessert at dinner one night.
Thanks for the comment about my needlework! I’m also planning to finish the peacock this month and reward myself with a trip to the frame store.
Keep picking a goal and taking steps on it, and you’ll be amazed at how it all turns out!
Billie Jo Konze says
This is great! I agree 💯. When you don’t have instructions, I think it’s also great to ask someone who’s done the thing you want to do before. Their pattern might have been slightly different, but they’ll still have knowledge and experience you can draw upon. So many people think “I can do it myself…I don’t need to ask anyone for help.” But asking for help actually helps you form stronger relationships and a better career.
Thanks for the great blog and congrats on that beautiful peacock!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Billie Jo! I agree with you that we all need help sometimes, and I love how you extended my analogy!
Rather than advising people to “ask someone”, though, I’d say instead “do your research.” I can’t tell you how many people have called and emailed me over the years to ask me questions that I’ve answered on my blog, if only they’d taken time to search and read.
People have also approached me to be their mentor. I wrote an article a while back with 3 tips for finding a mentor.
I can tell when people have done their research before contacting me. Usually, they’ll tell me the steps they’ve taken, but, even if they don’t do that, they’ll ask me much more specific questions. The exchange becomes much more meaningful on both sides, and, as you pointed out, “helps form stronger relationships and a better career.”
Thanks again for adding to my thread (literally and figuratively) and your kind words about my article and needlepoint.
jennifer mary dixon says
Good read Karen! Thank you ! Indeed these little lessons we glean as we go along in our lives do translate and transfer to our work lives – as long as we are kind to ourselves and make each step as manageable and enjoyable as possible. Sometimes being too ambitious can cause grief and interrupt that consistency. You are a delight .Thanks again. Love your tapestry . Cheers! Jenny
Karen Commins says
Hi, Jenny! I think these cross-over lessons occur all the time, and I feel grateful when I notice them.
I’m glad you made the very important point about being kind to ourselves. I know all too well about being too ambitious and having an overly loud inner critic who revels in pointing out perceived missteps.
For a number of years, I wrote in a New Year’s Eve journal where I summarized the events in the year. I didn’t give myself enough credit for the things I did or at least tried to do. I graded myself very harshly for the things that I didn’t do well.
I stopped the practice in 2017 after living through a terrible year with Drew’s parents’ declining health and passing. I started 2018 with 4 Resolutions and Intentions that still serve me.
Thanks for your kind words!
Christine Rendel says
What a thoughtful, inspiring and timely post, Karen. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the number of tasks, projects, goals and expectations we set for ourselves. In the process, we often end up achieving little except feeling frustrated and demoralized. I love your blog and to read of the strategies that guide you. I’m always learning and discovering better ways of practice, and I thank you for all you write. And your tapestry and artistry is beautiful and an inspiration!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Christine! Thanks so much for the kind words!
You’re absolutely right in saying we demand so much of ourselves and end up feeling demoralized and frustrated. I’ve decided I can make it easier on myself to move forward and feel happy, not stressed, as I do so.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have a peacock to stitch! 🙂
Karen Commins says
I’m thrilled to announce that on 23 January 2022, 3 years and 51 weeks after I started stitching this peacock, I FINISHED IT!! Woo-hoooo!! Now to find a framer I can trust with it!
Taking my own advice, I’m going to apply some consistent action on finishing the new demos for my web site! In finishing this peacock, I found that setting a deadline that was tied to something else really helped. I decided I didn’t want to cross the 4-year mark with this needlepoint project.
I plan to post my new demos on my site before APAC occurs on 1 March. You heard it here first! 🙂